The rushing Colorado River made ghost towns of usually booming resort areas yesterday as officials braced for water from snow melt to top spillways at Hoover Dam and increase flooding downriver.

"It's unbelievable that such a gorgeous area could remind you of a morgue on the Fourth of July weekend," said Jeanine Branson, a resort owner below Parker Dam on the California-Arizona border.

Officials expect a large turnout today or Monday at Hoover Dam when water begins pouring over the spillways for the first time since the dam's capacity was tested in 1941.

The spectacle, which officials said will become more dramatic as Lake Mead rises behind the dam, will force increased water releases from Davis and Parker dams. Downstream areas already have been hard hit.

Parts of the Midwest also had water problems as thunderstorms exploded from the lower Great Lakes to the Ozarks with up to 10 inches of rain and violent winds that left thousands of homes without electricity.

In southwest Arkansas, an elderly man died in a fired sparked by lightning. In Bolivar, Tenn., 36 people were injured and more than 20 others were trapped briefly when the roof of a discount store collapsed during a heavy thunderstorm.